Here’s a particularly egregious sliming of bloggers with a broad brush. Unfortunately, I’m quoted in it.
Posts about Weblogs
A journalism class at NYU surveyed students there and found that 44 percent read blogs. Interesting fact. What does it mean?
In the press release they put out and the story about it in the school paper, the instructor, department chair Brooke Kroeger, expresses surprise. Quoting the story:
The press release said blogs are targeted at today’s youth but “the fry aren’t taking the bait.” Kroeger said she didn’t expect only 44 percent of the “hip, urban, connected, downtown” crowd to read blogs.
So that’s how this news is presented: “only” 44 percent.
The student reporter emailed me and this is what I say in the story:
Jeff Jarvis, a professor at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and creator of the blog BuzzMachine, disagreed.
“It’s not a surprising finding to me,” Jarvis said.
He referred to a study done by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a nonprofit and nonpartisan research group, which found that “Eight million American adults say they have created blogs; blog readership jumped 58 percent in 2004 and now stands at 27 percent of internet users.”
“That would mean that students compared to the population as a whole are heavy users of blogs,” Jarvis said.
And there’s the problem with “only.” That word reports only the expectation of the speaker; it says the fact was less than her prediction. It’s a dangerous word. Reporters use it all the time and all too often: The candidate got “only” n percent of the vote (that is, less than the writer thought he should get. In college, I wrote a paper on how Ed Muskie won the New Hampshire primary but got less than the reporter thought he should get and so he was declared a loser).
So who says that 44 percent is small? Who says that’s surprising? Who is to judge that the fry aren’t taking the bait? What other comparisons can be made? For example, how many of those students read newspapers? How many watch the evening network news?
The resignations of the lightning-rod bloggers hired by Edwards’ campaign is not a good sign for bloggers or for conversation. Now every blogger hired by every campaign — in any position — will have their writing scanned for anything that could offend anyone. Tapioca time.
Major props to Bob Cox, founder of the Media Bloggers Association, for getting recognition on page 1 of the New York Times today for his single-minded and single-handed effort to get bloggers accredited to cover federal trials: Libby’s is the first.
: LATER: As some commenters make bluntly clear, I was apparently wrong attributing the accreditation to Bob’s single-handed work. FiredDog, they say, lobbied hard. No conspiracy here, folks (and certainly no sexism.. jeesh!). I was just aware of Bob’s hard work as the process went on. Congrats to all. No need for growling about it.
The hiring and then mufflling of bloggers by the Edwards campaign has to make you wonder whether whether campaigns and conversation are incompatible. Or perhaps we just better get used to honesty — in the form of bluntness and transparency and frankness — as a new phenomenon.
When you hire a blogger, you hire someone who lives — thinks and speaks — in public. You hire someone who responds to conversations without the veils of spin and PR and plastic discretion that politicians must learn.
In other words, on our blogs, we all say things that might offend someone. Truth is, in life — in bars, in restaurants, in offices, on the phone — we all do that, only now there is a public and — usually — permanent record. So now when a campaign hires such a person, it has to gird its crotch for the inevitable finding-of-the-offensive that will occur in this, the age of offense. And then, as the Times points out this morning, it has to figure out what to do. Firing people because they once said something that might have offended someone won’t work; there’ll soon be no one left to hire except people who have nothing to say and have never said it. Censoring them post facto won’t work; it violates our ethics in blogs to try to erase your old words; it is a lie of omission. What the Edwards campaign tried to do was hold onto the bloggers but make them choke on crow to satisfy the chronically offended. That trick won’t last for long.
Why don’t we just get used to the idea that people say things that might offend others and that soon we will all — campaign workers and campaigners alike — have such things on the permanent record. Blogs, Facebooks, MySpace pages, YouTube videos — you might say that they will haunt us. But I prefer to think that they will force us to be more open, more honest. Maybe then we’ll have no choice but to have a real conversation.
Andy Plesser of Beet TV made the mistake of handing me a microphone at Always On, but I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Whitaker, former editor of Newsweek and new the overseer of the future at Washington Post Newsweek Interactive, and my friend David Weinberger, author of the soon-to-be-released Everything is Miscellaneous. Whitaker, part I:
Whitaker, part II:
Comscore and Federated Media (which sells some ads on this blog) have teamed up to try to improve measurement in the long tail of social and niche media online. And that’s good.
Except I argue that the panel means of measurement is doomed to miserable failure in the mass of niches. You cannot possible build a panel large and varied enough to get reliable measurement of the audience and traffic of millions — even thousands — of sites, especially when we get the means to tie together lots of those small sites into networks.
What I hope they do is honestly and harshly look at their stats from their panel versus the server stats of the sites — especially the smaller sites, not the much-easier-to-measure big boys like Digg and BoingBoing — and realize that the panel just doesn’t work.
What we need, I’ve long argued, is standard metrics reported from the sites’ servers or from snoopers on pages and verified by a service such as Comscore or Nielsen. Old methods will not work in this new world. The same goes for Nielsen, which is buying the rest of Netratings.
And whilel we’re at it, let’s figure out the new measurements that capture the unique value of this new medium: authority, speed, connectedness… The page view is dead.
I think it’s time for a measurement summit: Bring together the measurement companies, the advertisers and their agencies (buyers), the sites’ reps (sellers), the media sites, and technology companies and let’s hammer out some standards and methods for measurement. This will only work if we have open standards with analytics (like Comscore and Nielsen) building value atop that common data. Otherwise, we end up in a world that will continue to confuse and scare advertisers — and their money — away.